It’s always staggered me how, on your birthday, the age you turn is for the year you’ve just completed. So, for example, on my 27th birthday I entered my 28th year – or, as one dear friend would often say, I began my 28th trip around the sun. I always inevitably feel like a year has been stolen out from under me. Try as I might to grasp it, it always takes me by surprise. It becomes an apt reminder of the way time moves so quickly, that life is a succession of one-chance moments flashing by. Blink and you miss it.
I’ve gone from treating my birthday like a veritable festival – Caseepalooza! – to wishing it would fly by unnoticed and positively dreading it for a number of reasons. I find the second scenario, which is how I was with my 27th, to be the most discomforting because not only does it land me in a bit of a perpetual drudgery, but then the realization wallops me over the head that I’m wishing time away while at the same moment lamenting how quickly it passes. How absolutely human of me, right? We don’t know what we’ve got until we’re at risk of losing it – it’s our credo.
So 27 is complete, and 28 is beginning, and the whole thing is properly terrifying, much as it is at any age when you realize you’re the oldest you’ve ever been and you’re stepping ever closer to the oldest you’ll ever be. We’re only ever given the moment, but that thought can be both empowering and paralyzing.
With a new year of me comes the reflections on my achievements and, inevitably, thoughts on how much farther I have to go, how far behind I am by my own estimation. Junky, unhelpful thoughts, all. They make you forget that you’re supposed to be celebrating something. But we’re here to learn, and those are the moments rife with teachings.
In 27 years I’ve learned that the best way to deal with a challenge is to try your best; that you must, as Maya Angelou said, do the best you can until you know better.
I’ve learned that the biggest – maybe the only – success in life is just showing up for it.
I’ve learned that the way we live our lives is a series of habits, and we can change those habits if we just: one, stick with it; and two, understand that the act of trying is a spiral, not a dot.
I’ve learned that failure is not something we truly are dealt, but rather an emotional reaction we create. And part of me will never understand this.
I’ve learned that everything’s best when we choose, act, and think with grace and kindness. Everything else is just us over-complicating things.
I’ve learned that overwhelm will always come up, fear will always come up, and the success is not in triumphing over it, but learning to abide in it with patience.
I’ve learned that we have control over how we react, but learning to enact that control is the greatest struggle we’ll face – and all it takes is the impossible task of letting go.
I’ve learned that you must go back and believe in fairytales. Take them seriously, take them to heart. All the secrets of life are in there.
And I’ve learned that you really have to learn to love – or, at the very least, like – yourself, because you’re who you’re guaranteed to spend the rest of your life with; it will be much more pleasant if you choose to be your own best friend, not your own biggest enemy.
Also: there is nothing on this earth as powerful as a compassionate heart and a well-fed imagination.